Since the establishment of a workers' compensation system in Florida more than 80 years ago, business and insurance interests have steadily tried to whittle away workers' rights with varying degrees of success. The high water mark for them arrived in the late 1990s with the election of Jeb Bush as Florida's Governor. For the next eight years, injured workers absorbed one crippling body blow after the other from Bush and his merry band of right-wing zealots in the Florida Legislature anxious to maximize the profits of the business community at the expense of individual rights. (Jeb adopted for Florida many of the measures that his brother George before him had imposed in Texas during his reign as that state's Governor. Get the picture?)
One of the more onerous examples of rights-limiting workers' compensation imposed in Florida is set forth at Section 440.09(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes. This section, known as the Major Contributing Cause (MCC) Doctrine, places the burden on injured workers to prove that the industrial accident is more than 50% responsible for causing the injury. An injured worker who fails to meet this burden will be denied ALL medical care and lost wage benefits from the employer. (In contrast, the personal injury system does not summarily deny compensation to persons with pre-existing conditions whose injuries were activated, i.e., made to become symptomatic, or aggravated (permanently worsened) by an accident. Instead, the finder of fact carves out the pre-existing element from the recovery and awards the difference. Not so under Bush's MCC system.)
The MCC is used as a defense in many cases. The E/C try to blame 50% or more of a claimant's injury on a pre-existing condition. For older workers and those with similar prior complaints, the defense can be difficult to overcome. Sadly, many an injured worker has been denied workers' compensation benefits because of the MCC.
Fortunately, the First District Court of Appeal has carved out an important exception to the MCC doctrine. In Pearson v. Paradise Ford, 951 So.2d 12 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007), the court held that an employee need not meet the rigorous MCC requirements when her or his pre-existing condition is occupationally related.
In other words, pre-existing conditions resulting from compensable work-related accidents will NOT be a factor in the denial of workers' compensation benefits under the MCC doctrine.
This example illustrates the complexity of Florida's workers' compensation system, and demonstrates the importance of consulting with a workers' compensation specialist following an industrial accident.
Our law firm has been handling workers' compensation for nearly 25 years. Please contact us today to arrange a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals - the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.